While most privacy policies include language to this effect, very few website operators take either it, or COPPA, seriously. But in a recent, landmark settlement, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has shown that it does take COPPA seriously.
The FTC began enforcement proceedings against the operators of Tik Tok (formerly known as Musical.ly) for violations of COPPA. Tik Tok required users to provide an email address, phone number, username, first and last name, a short biography, and a profile picture in order to sign up for its services. Tik Tok was also aware that a significant percentage of their users were under 13 and had received thousands of complaints from parents that their children under 13 had created accounts. Tik Tok never notified parents about their collection and use of personal information from these children, obtained parental consent for such collection and subsequent use, or deleted the personal information when requested by parents.
Tik Tok settled with the FTC for a fine of $5.7 million, the largest ever civil penalty obtained by the FTC in a children’s privacy case. Additionally, Tik Tok must comply with COPPA in the future and remove all videos made by children under 13.